Once upon a time, Cooking Light came to my house and created recipes for my family.
Have I mentioned that already? 🙂
I know, I need to get over it and move on with my life, but here is one last post on how it went afterwards. They designed a day of recipes for us in the January/February issue and here are the real life Test (Home) Kitchen’s results:
Aside from wanting to relive this experience and name drop, I also wanted to say that the ladies and gentlemen at Cooking Light really did get us. They listened and sincerely provided the ultimate day for us. These people care about their work and about the people who read it, cook it, and love it. Those of us who follow them and subscribe to their magazine and diet are all the better for it.
Thank you, people of Cooking Light Land. You rock.
And… it’s food memory time again! [stadium roars with cheers!]
I feel like it’s so southern of me to blog about food memory. And yet, it’s a universal tie to one’s culture, so if you replaced my southern food items with other cultural foods, it could be anyone. So in actuality, it’s just human to talk about food memory. I initially felt that way because many southerners, including myself, believe we have the BEST foods: fried chicken, cornbread, chopped pork barbecue, fried okra, peach cobbler, summer-homegrown-sliced tomatoes! The list goes on and on, but I imagine we could all argue that our childhood food, no matter where it came from, was the best.
I have noticed a strong similarity between Italians and southern Americans in their love of good food and a love of sitting around a table with food and family. That extremely unscientific observation comes from many hours of watching The Food Network, as I don’t actually know any Italians. I do have a friend who is half Italian/half southern and I’ve told him many times that his family reunion spread must be amazeballs. Truth is, it’s not just Italians and southerners. Food provides us all with a connection to our culture, our past, our present, and to one another.
I had an Indian friend in middle school. His name was Ashish Chaudhari and everyone loved him. I remember working on a group project at his house and his mom made chicken tandoori. It was spicy and delicious and different, and super exotic for a teenaged girl growing up in South Carolina. Later, when I had Indian food as an adult, I remembered his sweet mama making that dish and what a cool guy and friend he was. I’ve lost touch with him but it’s a food memory that connects us, even though we are from different backgrounds and have moved on to other towns and lives.
Now that I’m a mom, I wonder what his mother was thinking when a bunch of knuckle headed teenagers came over and she served us food from her homeland. Were we polite? Surely we were, we were southerners!! 🙂 I hope so. Were we grateful? We did not see that interaction as an adult would see it. And, it was the 80s and there was no Food Network, no internet, no organic section in the grocery store. No Nikki Haley. India may as well have been another planet. As an adult, I know now that food is an awesome way to introduce someone to another culture. So kudos to Mrs. Chaudhari! And may we all learn by her example.
What would you serve guests from another country or culture to introduce them to your culture? I’m not sure. Would I go fancy or more rustic? As an American, so many of our dishes come from other cultures already: pasta, tacos, pad thai. As a southerner, well, there are so many options! Although… I don’t even fry my own chicken…I buy it. [gasp!] We usually grill it or roast it now, anyway, but fried chicken reigns supreme, taste-wise. I do make my own cornbread and it is real and it is bomb. It’s my grandmother’s recipe and it’s made in an iron skillet, so yeah, I would definitely serve that. I also make my own fried okra — my other grandmother’s recipe — so I’d serve that, although I oven fry it now. Fresh vegetables are super southern, so I’d do that; maybe green beans and a squash casserole? Definitely summer-homegrown-sliced tomatoes! For dessert: either a caramel cake, or a lemon pie, or peach something, or pound cake. Or maybe all of the above, it’s a culture exchange for goodness sake! And to wash it all down, a big ass pitcher of not-too-sweet tea. With lemon and mint.
I hope my hypothetical guests would enjoy it and would feel welcome. I hope they would fill their bellies and souls with the goodness that I’ve been fortunate enough to have since birth. I hope we would laugh and tell stories around a table, and learn from one another. And afterward, I hope that they would invite me to their home for a meal.
To close, I love this food memory poem by Nikki Giovanni:
I always like summer
you can eat fresh corn
From daddy’s garden
And lots of
And homemade ice-cream
At the church picnic
And listen to
At the church
And go to the mountains with
And go barefooted
And be warm
All the time
Not only when you go to bed
Happy December! It’s a great time of year to post about food and food memory. However, it is hard to even begin a post about food memories when you’re 44 years old.
I try to think back to see if I can come up with my earliest food memory. I can oddly remember a church preschool lunchroom and cornbread. It was sweet and cake-y, not at all like what we had at home, but I loved it. There were also grilled cheese sandwiches that were of course on white bread, and good and greasy and american cheesey. Whenever I have cafeteria-style cornbread or grilled cheese sandwiches, I can remember being in that preschool lunchroom.
I remember lunches lovingly packed by my sweet mother: tomato soup in a thermos, salad with French dressing, sandwiches with Land o’ Lakes lunch meat, and if I was lucky, a Little Debbie. I always ate cafeteria food on pizza day…those little rectangles of pizza with pepperoni chunks were the greatest hit of the lunch room. I think they were usually served with a side of french fries and maybe some canned corn. We had a strip of little paper tickets that the lunch lady tore off each day. In high school, my friends and I called it the “Mist Room” where you deposited your lunch tray. You had to hold your breath as you walked through the warm, humid, wet-food-smelly room where they washed the dishes. It was truly gag-worthy. My brilliant friends Michael and Russ categorized all high school lunchroom food into: 1. Chunks O’ Stuff or 2. Bun Substance. I still use those terms with my own kids!
Birthday food memories at my house mainly revolved around pie instead of cake. To this day, I am still more of a pie girl than a cake girl. We had homemade chocolate or butterscotch pie; I always chose the creamy butterscotch. I don’t know how or where that tradition started, but I’m not complaining. It was such a treat!
Beach vacations always had dinners out (fried shrimp!) but we also cooked at the house. Always boiled shrimp, baked potatoes, salad, and garlic bread. Divine! Later, it became Frogmore Stew, aka low country boil, since we lived in South Carolina. That also became our go-to dinner for parties. I adored it. Now, sadly, shrimp makes me itchy. No idea where that came from. Last night, I dreamed about eating the most delicious shrimp ever. I miss it terribly.
Tailgates were loaded with food memories. Growing up going to UGA games in Athens, we feasted on Popeye’s spicy fried chicken, mom’s “rancho beans” (baked beans with ground beef), ham biscuits with the mustard/butter spread and swiss cheese, and pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting. My mother would work her tail off and transport all of those dishes from South Carolina to Georgia for our picnic. Once I was in college there, she would still bring it all for my friends and honey, they would all show up! The beans and ham biscuits would still be warm! She seemed to love doing it and I was always so proud to show off her good cooking.
My grandmothers were also amazing cooks. So were my great aunts. Two of them became caterers, and they made my wedding cake and my groom’s cake. That generation of women in my family introduced us all to good food. Our family reunions were to die for. We should’ve sold tickets! Fried chicken and fried okra, macaroni and cheese, green beans flavored with pork, squash casseroles, congealed salads, homemade rolls, chocolate pound cake, coffee punch…I could go on and on but suffice it to say, they went all out and we loved them for doing so.
I truly believe the good attendance had a lot to do with the quality of the food offerings; the company was good, too, but the good food put everyone in a good mood and made us all a little more fun to be around. The booze did too, I’m sure, but I was too young to notice. One year, a mangy stray dog on its last leg wandered onto the farm and my Aunt Lou went to the closet and grabbed a shotgun and asked my date (surprisingly now my husband) if he would go put it out of its misery. He was fortunately saved by a cousin who hunts…but hey, that’s one way to introduce your family to your new boyfriend and seal the deal! If he sticks around after that, you know he’s a keeper. And I have a feeling that good food helped motivate him to come back around, too.
I’m looking forward to highlighting some other family members’ food memories in posts to come. I’m interested in seeing how food has changed over the generations and how it has stayed the same. I’m interested in seeing how our relationship to food has changed and stayed the same. And I’m interested in seeing things I wasn’t even looking for. Thanks so much for joining me on this little journey.
Have you tried the food trucks in Atlanta yet? If you haven’t, keep reading and then go! I am loving the casual dining experience the food trucks offer, and the prices are right for the times. Or any times, really. I beg you to tell me, where else can you get a gourmet meal for $5 in Atlanta?
Granted, if you do it the way I did it and graze your way around to as many trucks as you can, you will spend more than $5. But I don’t get into Atlanta as often as I’d like, and I had to make the most of the opportunity!
Here’s what I recommend:
First, try as many options as your belly can hold. Start at Yumbii, a mash-up of Korean, Mexican, and Southern food, and go for the $3 fish taco. Crispy fried fish, with a dab of a creamy tartar sauce and a spicy red sauce…really good. The employees deliver a nice side dish of customer service along with the delicious food. Then, meander over to Sweet Auburn BBQ; try the pork taco with Asian slaw and wash it down with some Asian mint tea…a total of $5. Gotta love it.
Next, for less than $10, share a dessert trio: a gourmet popsicle from King of Pops to eat right away (I had Blueberry Ginger Lemonade–the kids and I fought over it!); some gelato from Honeysuckle Gelato to share next (try The Kang…an ode to Elvis’ love of chocolate and peanut butter); and to take home, a cupcake from Yum Yum Cupcake (I got both a red velvet and a key lime. They lasted, at most, a couple of hours.)
Sit down on the curb or under a shady tree with your cheap eats. The event takes place in a parking lot, but don’t be scared. It makes for a fun, interactive experience in which to talk with other customers about the food. The kids can run around and play. Plus, you save on tip with no wait staff!
If you’ve already been, let me know what your favorites are! If you haven’t, check out http://www.atlantastreetfood.com for more information. You can also follow @atlstreetfood on Twitter to find out where they are each day for lunch and dinner. I can’t wait to go back and try the others.
Hope you have a great weekend. It’s supposed to be beautiful weather here; hope it is wherever you are.